Senate panel sets confirmation hearing for Trump’s intel chief pick for Tuesday

Bonnie Cash

The Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a confirmation hearing on Tuesday for Rep. John Ratcliffe’s (R-Texas) nomination to be President Trump’s director of national intelligence. 

The panel formally scheduled the hearing on Thursday, a day after a source familiar with the matter confirmed to The Hill that they were preparing to move forward next week as the Senate returns amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A spokeswoman for Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who chairs the committee, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about if the panel will be implementing additional guidelines or safety measures to allow for social distancing during the hearing. 

The hearing — which will take place a day after the Senate returns to Washington — comes after President Trump and his allies had hoped Republicans would quickly confirm Ratcliffe. The role has been filled in an acting capacity since Dan Coats stepped down in August. 

But the Senate’s five-week break sparked by the coronavirus threw Ratcliffe and other pending nominations into limbo. Trump railed earlier this month against the Senate for holding pro forma sessions that prevent him from making recess appointments, and specifically pointed to the director of national intelligence position as one that was being delayed because of Congress’s recess. 

Ratcliffe’s nomination is expected to spark a fierce fight with Democrats already urging Republicans to oppose him and help sink the nomination. Trump had initially said last year that he planned to nominate Ratcliffe for the post, but the Texas Republican withdrew his name from consideration amid scrutiny that he inflated his résumé and a lukewarm reception from Senate Republicans. 

Several GOP senators on the Senate Intelligence Committee, including Burr and Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and John Cornyn (Texas), have indicated that they will support Ratcliffe’s nomination. 

But Republicans hold just a one-seat majority on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), a moderate GOP senator who faces a difficult reelection campaign, is viewed as a swing vote on whether Ratcliffe’s nomination will be sent to the full Senate with a favorable recommendation.

Several Republican senators, including Collins, have declined to say how they will vote on Ratcliffe’s nomination. Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the full Senate, meaning he could lose three GOP senators and still be confirmed by allowing Vice President Pence to break a tie.

Tags Dan Coats Donald Trump John Cornyn Marco Rubio Richard Burr Susan Collins

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